By: Ing. Yayah A. B. Conteh
Ours is a very diverse and cosmopolitan society- and indeed it is! Understanding that each individual is unique, with recognizably individual differences, takes us to the concept of ‘human diversity ‘, which fundamentally encompasses acceptance and respect for all.
This human diversity is no more than the sum total of unique biological and cultural variations within our species.
Human diversity, from a much broader perspective, means different things to different people, and embraces the variety of differences that exist amongst groups of people who constitute the human species.
Indisputably, one of the most important facts about human beings is that they are all not alike.
From the beginning of creation and the record of history to date, there has always been big and small men, strong and weak men, tall men and dwarfs, wise men and fools, etc.
Some people find it difficult to inhabit a world without music; a world without music to them is unthinkable. It is in fact the greatest source of pleasure to them.
Former President of Zambia. Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, in one of his books, asserted that “ Music is the gateway to a magic world: for me, at least, it has dissolved prison walls, healed emotional wounds and filled me with a sense of harmony and wellbeing when all around me was strife and contention”.
On the other hand, there are others who just consider music as an unnecessary noise- a mere cacophony of loud and unpleasant sounds.
It is common knowledge that in any large gathering, it is always possible to encounter people with an extremely good eyesight, others with dismally poor ones. There are still others who manifest colour-blindness or unable to taste or smell some particular substances, in sharp contrast with others whose taste buds and gastric juices are forever alert with insatiable hunger!
We encounter people in life who are professional draughtsmen (those gifted with the skills to draw detailed plans of machinery, buildings, etc.) whereas there are others who cannot even sketch a simple figure. What a world indeed!
Have we ever paused to ask ourselves why some particular set of people in our midst have well-nourished and greasy hair unlike others with stunted, dry, twisted and scaly hair? If we progress further to examine their facial features, or finger patterns, we found out that no two persons are indeed alike. Each man is unique. The next man you meet would be quite different from the last in both character and temperament.
Striking examples highlighted above are no more than some of the variety of differences that exist amongst individuals or groups of people who comprise humanity, reinforcing our conviction that human diversity is much more than just a variety of racial and ethnic differences. It thus refers to the great varieties of human characteristics- bringing to the fore some ways in which we are all different, even as we are all humans and share more similarities than differences. These differences are indeed an essential part of what enriches humanity.
Notwithstanding, however, human diversity has been responsible for the great material and cultural progress of mankind the world over.
These differences that have existed amongst men are very important, in that they underlie the conflicts which have, from time to time, shaken the world to its foundation since the beginning of history.
Differences in ideological warfare have propelled not only people but nations as well to rise in defense of their beliefs and convictions.
One who does not believe that different kinds of people inhabit our world must try to imagine its opposite, that is, a world in which all men are equal and alike in all respect. Each one does not feel either inferior or superior to the other. I wonder how such a world would have been like! Could it have had farms and factories, automobiles and aircrafts, newspapers and scientific research?
I stand convinced that like the barriers which separate the species of animals of the Lower Kingdom, all human beings belong to a single species and that there are no divisions amongst the varieties of men.
Regardless of geographic origin, colour and biological differences, all kinds of human beings can mate and reproduce offspring. Therefore, despite being of the same species, there are differences between human varieties in characters of the mind and body. A simple example to this can be related to the fact that the black race is considered more superior to the white race in their resistance to malaria attack, whereas most whites are superior to blacks in their resistance to tuberculosis attack.
Some scholars of repute have often furthered this discussion on human diversity by posing the following question-“Is it nature, nurture, heredity, environment or is it some combination of these that are responsible for human differences? Why are we all not alike but differ from one another in several respects?
From a scientific point of view, all our heredity and our nature are transmitted to us through tiny living cells. Each human being takes its origin from the union of these tiny cells- the egg from the mother which has been fertilized by a single sperm from the father. Each product from this union bears different character traits from the other.
People are different in different parts of the world because food, climatic conditions, upbringing, level of education, income capacity, etc. – in short, the physical and cultural surroundings in most countries are glaringly dissimilar; they are not all the same. People do differ because their environments too differ.
Moreover, we hail from different parts of the world, different families, stocks and races of men, culminating in our heredity being different.
Therefore, these two great forces – environment and heredity- form our bodies, minds and characters.
Human differences often seem so important that we forget that after all men are fundamentally very similar to one another.
Let not our ages, ethnicity, class, physical abilities or qualities, race, sexual orientation, as well as religious status, gender expression, educational background, geographical location, income capacity, marital and parental status including work experiences tear us apart in our quest to define our status quo in society.